In Absolutely San Francisco, four San Franciscans get stranded on a cable car that has broken down on its way to Fisherman’s Wharf on an unspecified hill. Most of the passengers have evacuated the car in order to walk or catch another bus on toward their destination. However, the four retain in their spirits the hope that someone will come to save them by fixing the cable car.
At first, their cause may seem noble, but if you are of that susceptibility then you will quickly come out of it. It becomes clear that these four strangers have been willed together by fate, choosing to see their ride’s end in order to meet various social discomforts with bravery, humor and song.
Among the four strangers are Davo, Grace, Jeffrey and Harry’s Wife. Each character embodies a “typical” San Franciscan, though there are certainly a few more kinds! The characters include a wealthy hippie or “Philistine,” a homeless former lovechild, a Chinese immigrant with 25 years naturalization and an openly gay wine shop owner.
All of the actors are local and do a magnificent job of portraying their characters. Perhaps it is the intimacy of the Phoenix Theater or the way upbeat songs beeline our hearts into catharsis; by the end I was not ready to doubt the possibility that the actors could have been playing themselves.
On the other hand, three out of all four “typical” San Franciscans were Caucasian. This is completely unbelievable to me, the native of a city that would not be close to what it has become without its renowned African-American dominated jazz scene and Latin immigrant-run Mission District, among other treasures bestowed by non-white groups.
Other than reinforcing the fact that the city opens its arms to those who submit to whims of song and dance in public areas, the songs of Absolutely San Francisco help create a connection with the audience.
Some of the actors have beautiful voices, though the songs themselves, and not the talent of the people singing them, are the play’s winning force. Comprised of a hodgepodge of puns and sentimentality, songs like “Going for the Gold,” “Bay Bridge Baby” and “Beyond the Horizon Line” evoke any component of sympathy that superb acting and annoyingly realistic serendipities leave behind.
Although the plot targets a specific area, it maintains global appeal by addressing issues that will strike all audience members, such as gay marriage, fine wine, emotionally abusive habits of the bourgeoisie and life as an immigrant.
If one is interested in learning more about San Franciscan culture than can be expressed in a guidebook, I recommend seeing Absolutely San Francisco.
As the characters battle with the judgments the world passes upon them, they see the ways in which they have misjudged others through their need to protect themselves from pain. The musical sends this message over a clear connection supported by humor and song.
For more information go to notquiteopera.org.